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MBTA to spend up to $37 million to hire buses for month-long Orange Line shutdown

Steve Poftak

The MBTA board this morning approved spending up to $37 million to hire Yankee Line buses to replace the Orange Line for a month starting on Aug. 19 - and for some smaller-scale Green Line diversions.

At the board's meeting, T General Manager Steve Poftak said the buses will be free to riders - and that riders with CharlieCards will be able to get free rides on commuter rail, at least to and from Zone 1, 1A and 2 stations. He said he will have his staff look at how to get free commuter-rail rides for less regular Orange Line commuters who don't have CharlieCards.

Poftak said the final cost of the buses could range from $27 million to $37 million. The top amount would get the T 200 buses at rush hour; the lower cost 150 buses at rush hour. He said the T is currently planning on 160 buses at rush hour.

Poftak and Gov. Baker, making a rare appearance at a T stop, will provide more details of the planned Orange Line shutdown at Wellington station at 12:30 p.m.

But at the directors meeting, Poftak said a 30-day shutdown will give maintenance workers 24 hours of day access to make badly needed track repairs along the entire line - to answer one of the key criticisms of federal investigators. He said the shutdown will also give the T the ability to do "lots of other reliability projects," which he said he and Baker would detail at 12:30.

One member of the public spoke at the meeting and called the complete shutdown "totally unacceptable" because it would mean people couldn't get to their jobs on time, workplaces would go unstaffed and some people would miss medical appointments.

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Stopping all trains (not just Needham trains) at Forest Hills, and stopping trains at Oak Grove (which has a normally unused platform) would help a lot. Is it also possible to add some short-turn commuter trains?

Many years ago, there was a temporary commuter rail platform at Sullivan Square, but I don't know if that's still feasible today.


They added short-turn Commuter Rail between Forest Hills-South Station a few years back for a few weekends where they were doing construction. Of course, they poorly publicized it, there was zero signage, and it wasn't frequent enough... so it didn't get much use.

They are remarkably bad at creative service.


Baker is finally gonna get to see close up what an actual MBTA stop looks like before he transfers back to the public sector to cash in on all of the “contacts” he made (at taxpayer expense) while being a fake-moderate politician,


While it won't help someone in the Green St or Stony Brook part of JP, adding some of the trips which were axed on the Needham line at busier items of the day could really help.

Pipe dream scenario:
1) Add the axed trips back (7am out of Roslindale, etc...) and maybe some additional ones midday.
2) Drop fare collection from FH inbound on the Needham Line


It isn't really feasible for Providence, Franklin, and Stoughton trains to stop at Forest Hills. The track layout was designed just for the Needham trains to stop there; to use it for the other lines would be difficult. You'd have to switch all of the other trains onto the Needham branch and essentially make it a single-track line through the station, meaning trains in opposite directions couldn't pass each other. And the "turnouts", the switches that allow trains to move from one track to another, are probably only set up for low-speed operation.

During the US Open in June, some Providence or Franklin trains added a Forest Hills stop.


The MBTA has had non-Needham trains stop at Forest Hills over the years for special events -- the US Open and the Beyonce concert at Gillette are two recent examples.

Having other lines stop at FH is a no-brainer and needs to happen.

Any turnouts between the three main tracks (2-1-3) should be built for high speeds. So crossing service over between those tracks wouldn't be a big deal. Especially for Franklin Line trains, which are already running on 3, so could just stay on 3 to/from FH. I'm not sure I'd want to figure out how exactly to dispatch that …


at least some of them will, according to the T's latest announcement. Franklin trains won't. I believe this was also true during the US Open.

It could be possible.. they would have to build a platform. The platform used in 1984 when the north station bridge burned is long gone.

Oak Grove is possible, the platform is still there.

You could even put one at Wellington, its all single track from Sullivan north and there's lots of places near Wellington a short platform could be built

then again $$$ and time.


I would guess that it's probably possible to rent a scaffolding-type platform along with ramps. All sorts of temporary infrastructure exists for events and construction and whatnot.

what the MBTA could have been doing with that kind of money all these years if they had any kind of regular preventive maintenance and pro-active upgrading practices in place.


1. Underfund T by saddling it with debt and making it dependent on fares for revenue
2. Blame Unions, push for privatization of service
3. T becomes unreliable because of underfunding and poor management
4. Ridership Drops
5. Blame Unions, privatize
6. Cut service due to reduced ridership cutting fare revenue
7. Ridership drops
8. Blame Unions, privatize
9. Ignore buildup of maintenance issues due to underfunding, never even ask for sufficient money to repair maintenance issues "we can't spend money fast enough" (or manage poorly enough to never be aware of all the maintenance issues)
10. Rolling catastrophic failure of system so bad you have to shut down the orange line for a whole friggin month just to keep it from completely blowing up.
11. (TBD) Blame Unions


12) Fire your safety director when he calls you out on issues. https://www.wcvb.com/article/attorney-former-mbta-safety-chief-ron-nickl...


So why hasn't the veto-proof Democratic majority in both chambers -- who can thus pass anything they want over any Baker objection -- passed laws to fund the T, require maintenance, etc.?

Awfully convenient to blame just Baker and then look the other way.


Several places on here I have carped about the lack of oversight from the state house. However, Baker is the one who is in charge and is the one who said he didn’t need more money, year after year.

How are you gonna give more money to a guy who says he doesn’t need it?


a plurality of the legislature has no interest in spending money on the T


A lot of people seem to forget the T runs no service west of Worcester. A lot of people in that part of the state, Democrats included, don't have a whole lot of interest in funding the MBTA.

Unless they don’t think they depend on a state capital to function.


Outside of Boston. Just like they depend on state capital to function, the MBTA needs them too even though they never use it.

Unless they don’t think they depend on a state capital to function.

They understand this quite well. They also have unmet transit needs that will go unmet forever at this rate.

Throwing a bandaid on the east-of-Worcester-only transit system instead of creating a workable transit solution for the whole commonwealth is the very definition of "short sighted".

Honestly thought it would take a storm akin to The Great Gale of '38 flooding the entire Southwest Corridor and The Washington Street Tunnel {besides turning Wellington Yard into a marsh} to get this scale of rapid transit bustitution. Hopefully, no Yankee buses get stuck on Jamaica Plain side streets trying to do their version of MBTA Shuttle Route 618...

Mister Baker's Transit Authority at its finest!


is always fun to watch when shuttle buses replace service to Stony Brook. It's a pretty tight corner for a full-sized bus, though the southbound side of Lamartine is wide enough there that cars waiting at the light can give shuttle buses enough room to make the turn by either stopping ~10 feet before the white line or by hugging the right side of the lane. This is Boston, so of course everyone is courteous and polite and there are rarely problems.

Just kidding, there's usually a uniformed patrol car there directing traffic, and the buses STILL get stuck making the turn because some jag in his low-rider just HAS to inch up to the box to make a Massachusetts Left.


orange line shuttles should get bus rapid transit treatment. block off lanes for them to drive in


I suggested something like this to MassDOT to be used on the Pike *in one direction* and *only during certain hours* for the "Express(way)" buses to use to get from Waltham/Brighton/Newton to downtown and back in the evening.

I was told that it's infeasible due to traffic volumes.

Then they decided it's feasible to close an entire lane *in each direction* and *all day* so a private contractor can build a building above the Pike.

The state groups in charge of transportation give zero shits about transiting.


… is not the time to be putting people on hot sidewalks to wait for crowded busses that move slower than the Orange Line does currently.
Busses that can’t accommodate the number of wheelchairs, strollers, walkers etc that the Orange Line does. Busses of a bus line that lost drivers during the commuter rail shut down.
Anyone who has been dealing with that knows what I’m talking about.
Washington St from Stuart to Gov Center will need to be closed to private vehicles and made two way to accommodate the busses. But of course no one with the power to do so will do this. So riders are screwed if not dead from heat exposure.


but is that street actually wide enough for two-way bus traffic? (especially Yankee buses which look to me larger than MBTA buses)


It could mean the bike and bus lanes become one for a while in certain places.

Right now it's mostly for pedestrians. You could run a bus through there one direction, but could you really run them both ways?

They run those busses both ways down narrow spots and around tight curves through old downtowns on the North Shore. Those are even tighter and trickier than the straight shot DTX is.

Doesn't seem like a good idea to have the Orange Line and the parallel E branch closed at the same time. That is scheduled to run through August 21.


the only choices were ones the Feds gave them: "you close it now, or we close it now."


Everyone: "The T sucks and is always breaking down. Why don't they fix it?"

The T: "OK, we're going to shut the Orange Line to fix everything."

Everyone: "NO! You can't do that! Think how it will inconvenience everyone."


Couldn’t have said it better

Everyone for the last 8 years: "The T sucks and is always breaking down. Why don't they fix it?"

Charlie Baker for 8 years: "it's fine. just some minor issues that we can address with our current funding, there's no emergency."

*Failures, Deaths, Explosions, People LITERALLY JUMPING OFF BRIDGES to escape burning trains, FTA intervention...*

Charlie Baker: "We're going to shut down the Orange Line for 30 days since there's no other option because of our criminally negligent management for the last 8 years and probably do a half ass job of it too, based on past experience... wait y u mad?"


People still can be rightfully angry at the leadership for getting us to this point. It shouldn't take a literal flaming wreck of a train line to do reliability maintenance. In theory, this type of work could be scheduled at least months in advance so that the city has time to prepare alternative service (rapid bus lanes, bus stops, BTD/BPD staffing if needed to prioritize buses) or commuters have time to figure out different arrangements. No opportunity to do that here because of the sorry state of the OL, but that doesn't excuse the awful leadership and planning.


The MBTA has known about these issues for years, haven't done the maintenance when it should have been done, and as a result the people that rely on it are the ones inconvenienced.

A month isn't enough time to fix all of the problems either, basically a shot in the arm at the expense of 100,000 daily riders... who will still continue to experience problems afterwards.

Hard to embrace a 24/7/30 shutdown without knowing what work needs to be done.

For example, they replaced track and eliminated a slow zone between BBY and TMC (nee NEMC) with a weekend shutdown.

What work are they doing that is a) super critical that has to be done NOW and b) couldn't be done with a few night/weekend shutdowns? Haven't seen any punch list yet, so we don't know if the complete shutdown is the most efficient way to get work done, or just 'easiest'.


The Big Dig: "We can not allow the replacement of a highway to shutdown the city or its economy."

The Orange Line: "Shut it down. Fuck you. You wanted bold action, here it is."


During summer the MBTA shut down the Orange line for several weekends to do "track work." At least that was the claim. Odd that now the masters of the T want to shut down the entire line for yet more track work.

I did not realize that the T was relying upon commuter trains during those weekends. Not surprising. What and when the masters of the T communicate doesn't fit with the idea fo clear communication.

Are there institutional problems that work against whatever maintenance is done? Are the older trains destroying the tracks and so making maintenance ultimately failures?

Vast amounts of money has flowed through the MBTA in the past 20 years. Rebuilding stations (I remember the stalactites at Shawmut Station), supposed track work on various lines, etc. I also remember the money wasted on keeping Ashmont Station closed until the elevator was finished.

Yet the system as a whole still seems to be falling apart.

Add the proposed changes to the bus routes. The changes will add time to trips, create greater inconvenience and in general make use of the bus system more of a pain.


Charlie swiped his card
At the Kendall Square Station
And he changed for Jamaica Plain
3 hours later he heard
"the orange line is broken."
Charlie could not get off that train.


he'd get his lunch handed to him.

His suburban base takes the T on the Fourth of July and to two or three Sox games a year and it always works pretty well then, so is this really such a big deal?


I voted for Don Berwick.

He would have let Charlie return!

Hard to tell, but it reads like they will use motor coaches instead of T buses for the bustitution shuttles. Which would really stink.

Steel steps to get in. Only one entrance/exit. Really narrow aisles. No real space for bags. Can't really have standing room.

All that leads to very loan boarding and egress times, slowing down the whole system.


I recall being on a Red Line substitute motor coach, I think from Yankee, that had both a front and a rear door for boarding.

… if you’re feeling crappy.

Looks like we just bought someone at Yankee Line a house out on the Vineyard. Also, those Old Towne Trolley busses look like they'd be a better fit in rush hour traffic than the gargantuan motorcoaches primarily used for highway transportation.

I do hope they close at least one street (Washington from Stuart to Govt Center as suggested) to private traffic so we can see what effects it would actually have as the city plans to reconfigure itself post-pandemic.

when they did this with the A branch of the Green Line? They should be finishing up those repairs anytime now--when can we expect that line to re-open, again?


We literally had a year of varying levels of lock-downs due to CoVID. Imagine if that opportunity had been seized to prioritize some of this stuff? Ridership was negligible for quite a while and service interruptions like this would have been so much less impactful.

Why is it that the people who are elected to lead, just literally don't.

I've been a fan of Baker due to his support for improving access to care for opioid/addiction treatment, and feel like he did a pretty decent job navigating CoVID, but it does seem like this has been a known issue for years, and there was such a perfect opportunity to deal with this head on.

We as a society NEED to start thinking forward, we've become so reactive instead of thinking proactively. I can't help but feel like this is just another symptom of a deeper theme. It's troubling.


With seniors needing to get to the Farmers Market, medical appointments or the library, the MBTA powers-that-be REFUSE to restore 55 bus service to Copley Square.

For all the Fenway (growing number of) residents who work at for Copley businesses, take a bike.

Children who need to get to daycare and medical appointments, get a car.

For all the King’s horses and elected city and state officials who have advocated 55 service be restored, let them EAT CAKE. Your voice means nothing.

37 MILLION DOLLARS for one month of buses for one line and failed decisions by Authority bureaucrats who do not use the bus route they have decimated.

Doesn't that go to Copley now? It no longer goes to Park Street, but I never understood why it ever did that, since you can transfer to the Green Line at Copley.

...and are they only option? Seems like they keep getting these emergency contracts, presumably with no formal bidding process. I have no complaints about their service, and the buses themselves are downright plush and plenty comfortable, but is anybody monitoring the process? Seems ripe for abuse.


Everybody is acting like the Yankee bus thing is some new, unheard of novelty. But this exact was just done when the Blue Line bused everybody to and from Airport for a month. (The T said it would just be a week.)And yes, it sucked. They have one door and it took forever to get on and off those things. It was a clusterfk in every way possible. Apparently the Blue Line is non-existent to all except those of us forced to use it.

"Poftak said the T does not plan to improve service on its other subway lines or bus lines, which have been cut back significantly due to worker shortages, during the shutdown."

What heresy is this?

…suck more.